Does the charity sector have a problem with women?

November 9, 2015 at 16:37

Last week there was some good news for women looking for high-powered careers in the city, as it looks like all-male FTSE 100 boards have been confined to the dustbins of history, where they belong.

Whilst we should take a moment to recognise this positive step in the right direction, there is not the time for complacency.

Today is #EqualPayDay, which means that if you’re a woman working in the UK you are effectively working for free from today until the end of the year, thanks to the UK’s persistent gender pay gap.

What’s the problem?
What can be done?
What is CFG doing?
Some people to follow on twitter


What’s the problem

Women are over-represented in the voluntary sector’s workforce: women make up 68% of the sector’s workforce, (556,000 women; 264,000 men) compared to 40% of the private sector’s. On the face of it this tells a very positive story of women in the voluntary sector. However, there are some concerning trends that should be recognised and addressed.

  1. Women are particularly over-represented in the health and social care sub-sector, which is typically constituted by low-paid and part-time work.
  2. There are very few female leaders in the voluntary sector. Only 43% of charities are led by female Chief Executives and Chairs, this figure falls to 27% for charities with a turnover of over £10 million. Whilst ACEVO’s 2014/15 Pay Survey shows that across the charity sector the gender pay gap has fallen slightly from last year (by 2.3%), the median pay for women is still 16.3% lower than men.

So, what can be done?

For a sector that prides itself on driving social change and tackling inequality, the dearth of women in senior positions and the resulting gender pay gap is an issue that shouldn’t be ignored.

This blog should not be read as a stick to beat charities over the head with; the wider social and economic factors that lead to the gender pay gap need to be grappled with if the invisible, but very real, barriers that women face in reaching the top jobs in their field are to be broken down.

Disclosing gender pay information is not enough

The government has stated its commitment to eliminating the gender pay gap. The current government is building on measures brought in under the Coalition to tackle the gender pay gap. For example, people now have the right to ask their employers for flexible working patterns, and have the right to share parental leave.

The next step is mandating large employers (those with over 250 employees) to disclose their gender pay gap. Companies have been encouraged to do this voluntarily, but only three have done so to date.

But reporting is just one step in many that is needed. The reasons behind women being paid less than men are numerous and complex. The issue is embedded in societal norms and unless attitudes change, no amount of reporting is going to solve the problem.

Whilst attitudes towards women in work have reportedly been more progressive over time, the assumption that women who have children are less ambitious than men (presumably regardless of whether or not they have children) remains. This is often referred to as the ‘Motherhood Penalty’.

Reporting duties should be accompanied by sufficient support from government

Charities are experiencing a capacity crunch. It is important that any new legislation takes this into account and those charities have sufficient support and time to plan for and implement any changes.

A similar partnership project to Scotland’s Close the Gap should be established to provide direct support (eg training and pay audits, staff consultation, online toolkits etc) and guidance to inform employers of their duties, and the myriad of causes of the gender pay gap and what measure employers can take to tackle them.

What is CFG doing?

In our response to the gender pay consultation we argue that burdening charities with reporting gender pay information would be unhelpful if there is insufficient support to help employers identify meaningful measures to tackle the barriers facing women in the workplace.

If this support was in place, we would see value in widening the scope of the legislation to include all employees as limiting it to charities with over 250 employees will exclude most of the women that work in the sector. By including gender pay reporting in the SORP, this should minimise the time and cost required to present this information.

CFG will list our gender pay information on our website, on the page we explain how we decide how much to pay staff.

Some people to follow on twitter

If you are interested in the issue of gender and work in the voluntary sector, I can recommend that you follow these researchers on twitter and read some of their work: @b_lockyer; @PaulineLeonard; @caitbeaumont